Top shelf The new Shelfpack (left) offers what looks to be one of the most practical, lo-tech upgrades for luggage since Briggs & Riley first put wheels on a suitcase, in the early 1970s. Containing a set of four collapsible shelves, with three side pockets for toiletries and other small items, it currently comes in one size only (71cm x 47cm x 36cm) and, when laid flat with the shelves extended, stands just over one metre high. Vaguely reminiscent of old steamer trunks, which opened bookwise to reveal a set of drawers on one side and a coat-hanger rail on the other, the Shelfpack will today probably be most useful if you are staying somewhere for just one night, making several short stopovers, travelling long distance by train or perhaps camping. Unlike several new hi-tech suitcases, such as the Bluesmart (www.bluesmart.com) and Trunkster (search at crowdfunding.com) mentioned here a few months ago, and Delsey's upcoming Pluggage (www.delseypluggage.com) which are all still waiting to be released, Shelfpack is available to buy, at shelfpack.com for US$349.
Cuba libre With a new United States embassy opening in the Cuban capital, Havana, this month, and the US trade embargo on Cuba looking likely to be lifted this year, international media have been focusing on the inevitable commercialisation and so-called "Americanisation" of a country that has been largely off-limits to US travellers for decades. While few would begrudge the Cuban public the obvious benefits of full economic links with all of North America, anyone who has had the country on their to-visit list should probably get in this year, before the arrival of Hyatt, Hilton, Starwood and other resorts turn the place into a Cancun-like party destination (much as it was prior to the 1950s revolution). Being roughly halfway around the world from Hong Kong, Havana and its still-surviving retro charms can be most conveniently reached from here via Paris with Air France or via Toronto with Air Canada. Both airlines operate daily services. Expect around 24 hours travel time each way. The best guidebook to the country is published by Lonely Planet, which put out the first edition of its Cuba guide back in 1997. A new edition is due in October.
Star quality Keen astronomers and romantic travellers can spend a night under the stars, albeit with a glass partition overhead, at Hotel 41 in London. A night in the penthouse Conservatory Suite (left) is offered with the chance to name a star after your loved one (or after yourself for solo stargazers), a selection of champagnes, an astronomy book and a silk scarf from £1,294 (HK$15,600) per night. Hotel 41 is located on Buckingham Palace Road, on the opposite side of Buckingham Palace Gardens to The Lanesborough (www.lanesborough.com) which finally reopened earlier this month after a longer-than-expected, two-year renovation. For further information and reservations, visit www.41hotel.com.
Hopeful in Haining Luxury meets obscurity this month with the opening of a Langham Place hotel (right) in the city of Haining - a place so seldom visited by foreigners it doesn't even warrant a mention in the hefty Lonely Planet or Rough Guide books on China. Located between Shanghai and Hangzhou, Haining is noted mainly for its leather industry and a tidal bore that travels along the adjacent Qiantang River once a year. The hotel's website offers the hopeful promise of "coastal charm and contemporary sophistication" and from a glance at the "Landscapes" section, there might be a few interesting sites to visit. The closest international airport to Haining is in Hangzhou, from where it is a one-hour drive to the hotel, which is the only international property in the city.
Deal of the week Charlotte Travel's two-night Sanya package, which includes flights on Dragonair, offers two nights in the Hainan resort region at reasonable rates. This being high season, you'll need to add a HK$900 flight surcharge to the following prices, but the Westin Sanya Haitang Bay Resort, Shangri-La's Sanya Resort & Spa and the Mandarin Oriental Sanya (top) are available from HK$2,050, HK$2,150 and HK$3,450, respectively. Several other hotels and resorts are also offered. A full list with further package details and reservation information can be found by clicking through International Packages/Sanya at www.charlottetravel.com.hk.